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Mozilla goes viral


By Danny Sullivan

Computerworld and others reported this week on Mozilla‘s launch of a viral marketing campaign.

“The campaign is a departure from Mozilla’s usual marketing efforts, which has relied on the Spread Firefox site and the host of fans who drum up support for the browser,” states the article.

Given the geeky nature of many of the key customers of technology companies, the viral marketing strategy is sure to be an increasing trend as emerging, “edgy” companies seek to set themselves apart from the incumbents.

And, let’s face it, it’s good fun too. “Engage your audience, don’t interrupt them,” is the marketing mantra I hear everywhere these days. Hear hear!

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May your New Year be crisis-free

By Danny Sullivan

After reading the recently unveiled 101 Dumbest Moments in Business of 2007, assembled by the recently defunct Business 2.0 Magazine, I was struck by the thought that most of the events likely resulted in extensive hair loss for the PR folk involved.

Crisis management is a core competency of any decent PR firm, but I’ll be surprised if you can find many folk out there who actually enjoy that particular component of their work.

Most of the events described in the list probably had the same effect on the respective PR departments as dropping a tube of mentos into a bottle of Coke. A panic explosion. Emergency meetings to decide what kind of spin to place on the situation to fix things… herds of flacks running around shouting on phones… that sort of thing.

But the mad panic usually isn’t worth the blood, sweat or tears. The media froth around an issue will almost always disappear in fairly short order (unless it appears again in these end of year lists) and the best way to handle the short term frenzy is to treat it calmly and honestly. If a business blunder has truly been committed, then it’s best to face up to things and draw a line under the matter.

Far better to spend your time discussing what approach should be taken after the storm has passed than pulling out hair trying to influence the immediate situation.

Still, I hope 2008 is a crisis-free year for me, and I hope it is for you too. Happy holidays!

VoIP ideal for homeworkers

By Danny Sullivan

I just read an article about the growing demand for VoIP in Canada, and thought I’d pitch in on the topic.

As a technology flack working out of a home office in the UK, I have been a customer of one of the VoIP industry’s market leaders for over two years now. There are several good reasons why a VoIP phone system suits me:

1. Cheap international and free long distance calls. Sure, there are all kinds of plans out there from the incumbent telephony providers, but I have yet to see the kind of rates applied across the board that I get as standard using VoIP. As probably over 50% of my contact with media and clients is international, this is a compelling benefit.

2. The ability to have virtual numbers in any location. inmedia is headquartered in Canada, so there is obviously a significant amount of regular contact with my colleagues and clients over there. At a nominal fixed cost per month, I am able to have a local number in Ottawa that rings here in the UK. There is no limit on the amount of numbers and it would take a matter of moments to establish a local number in any region, say for a new client in another country. Even if the overall benefit to a client is relatively small, it’s still an inexpensive way to provide a good customer service component.

3. Online access. The Internet dashboard that comes with my VoIP system is invaluable. When I’m on the road I can access all my phone details via the web, allowing me to check call logs, listen to voicemail, set up call forwarding and all kinds of other features.

Now, although my experience with the technology has been overwhelmingly positive, I probably shouldn’t mention VoIP without making it clear that it’s not perfect.

“Danny, you’ve gone all robotic on us,” was the concerned response from one of my colleagues on a recent conference call.

VoIP, as an internet-based service, is dependent on a certain level bandwidth for it to operate effectively. It doesn’t need much, but it can mean that you occasionally experience degradation of voice quality, either inbound or outbound. Hence my sudden transformation into a Dalek last week.

But to be honest, these issues, while a bit unnerving for those on the other end of the line, are few and far between, and the benefits of VoIP by far outweigh them. For people who work from home, VoIP is definitely worth a look.

Analyze this

By Danny Sullivan

My colleague, Jill, recently wrote an introductory post on analyst relations, and I felt compelled to augment this with some additional thoughts on the topic.

“Technology analyst firms, there’s no point in talking to them unless you’re prepared to pay them, right?”

Wrong. But it’s not an uncommon perspective among technology companies that have yet to engage with the analyst community.

It is certainly true that analyst firms do very well out of the consulting side of their business, and it is fair to assume that companies who pay their consulting dues probably experience a good level of mind-share with the analysts as a result. But it is a mistake to say that there is no value in speaking with analysts unless you pay them.

Technology analysts are viewed as independent experts in the fields they choose to cover. As such, they have a reputation to uphold. (Granted, some have more of a reputation to uphold than others, but we don’t need to go into that here!) This reputation depends entirely on the analyst being firmly plugged into the industry in which he or she is an expert. And this means they need to know about everything that is going on in that sector – from market leaders right down to emerging players.

As a result, those introductory briefings Jill describes in her post are highly important to analysts, ensuring that they maintain that position of all-knowing expertise that their clients expect.

Of course, the degree to which unpaid briefings with analysts are immediately useful to a company depends very much on the individual analyst. Briefings can be effective testing grounds for messaging around new products and services, but feedback is often at a premium and there will always come a point in the conversation where you are recommended to “have a conversation with our account manager.” How early this point comes in the conversation varies greatly between firms and analysts.

But none of this means you should not be talking to analysts. They are a direct conduit to your market. If they don’t know about your company, they can’t recommend you to end-users or include your products in reports. Ultimately, analysts will give coverage to companies that deserve it, typically through demonstrated, quantifiable success in the marketplace. In most cases, spending money with them will give you access to their expertise, but it does not equate to coverage in industry reports.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll continue to write about analyst relations and explore some of the differences between the big analyst companies and smaller, boutique firms.

US marketing in the UK: not as simple as it seems

By Danny Sullivan

During the five-year period in my life when I made my home on the Western side of the Atlantic, I was always interested to note the subtle differences in the way that the general population responded to marketing when compared to my native Britain.

The UK is a generally more sceptical country and, in my experience, its inhabitants tend to expect a bit more effort from the companies that are trying to sell to them.

One memory leaps to the fore: Coca Cola’s miserable attempt to sell its Dasani water product in the UK. After quickly becoming the second-biggest selling bottled water product in the US, Dasani hit the shelves in the UK in 2004, only to be pilloried for being nothing more than purified tap water. It lasted only months before being pulled from the shelves, along with planned launches in France and Germany.

A study by GfK NOP released today puts me in mind of those days. Apparently the i-Phone isn’t doing as well in the UK as Apple might have hoped. Only 2% of those surveyed were thinking of putting the uber-gadget on their Christmas list this year. While the main reason for this is almost certainly the hefty price tag, I can’t help but feel that there are other factors at play too.

Richard Jameson of GfK NOP sums it up nicely:

“This is a highly competitive market and the mobile phone manufacturers have very strong brand loyalty. Apple needs more than cutting–edge design to penetrate this market and will have to work much harder in the UK than it did in the US to make iPhone a mass-market proposition.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Jameson’s perspective and would recommend his words be considered by any North American company that intends to target the UK market. Common language aside, the similarities end there.

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